For anyone thinking about living on a canal boat in London, this is just about everything I know about it.
First – You do not need to know all of this before moving onto a boat. There is a LOT of information here. We knew a bit of it, and we learned the rest along the way. Most of this information is useful, but it’s probably overwhelming. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop.
Second – I am not an expert. I did live on a houseboat in London for a time, but there’s a lot I still don’t know.
Every boat is different, learn about yours.
Follow CRT (Canal and River Trust) rules.
Join London Boaters on Facebook.
Don’t completely fuck up your batteries.
Stock up on wood and coal in the winter.
If you need help with something, ask more experienced boaters or post in London Boaters.
Don’t be a dick.
My main piece of advice to people thinking about living on a boat is: DO IT, but be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. Boat life can be absolutely incredible, but it is a bigger responsibility than living in a flat. If you’ve got the time and the taste for the lifestyle, it’s more than worth it.
When I lived on a boat, according to the Home Office, I was the only foreign citizen in the UK on a Tier-4 student visa living on a houseboat. I might have been the first one ever, at least as a continuous cruiser (more on this later). I just think that’s funny.
I lived on a 65-foot narrowboat for like 4 ½ months, from 1st August to 17th December, 2016. Not long, yeah, but I’ve experienced all manner of London weather on a boat, moored in 14 different places, and have much more experienced boater friends who’ve helped me a lot. I rented the boat with one other person, we had a couple of other friends stay for various lengths of time. I am not an expert on boats and I know nothing about boat mechanics.
Living on a boat was one of the best experiences of my life. It is not the easiest or most practical way to live. I would do it again in a heartbeat, but there’s a lot I’ve learned from my boat experience that I wish I’d known when I first started.
There’s a lot of information on here and it’s particular to my experience and understanding. If any other boaters read this and can add information or correct me if I’m wrong about something, PLEASE DO SO! Leave a comment so others reading this can see it if I don’t get around to updating.
General Pros and Cons of Boat Life:
I feel similarly towards boat life as I do towards the country of Ireland: Sometimes a bit shit, but on the whole, magical.
- Conscious living: If you’re interested in tapping into your basic necessities in a way that your average flat in 21st century London does not allow you to, boat life may be for you. There’s something really satisfying, to me at least, about consciously thinking about your warmth, your water, your power, your space, your neighbors.
- Sustainable living: Being aware of your water and your power usage, yeah, it’s on the whole a pretty sustainable way to live. Particularly because on many boats your power comes from solar panels. But – burning coal and diesel engine = not great for the environment. Don’t know much about the sustainability side of it, I think it’s slightly better on that front than a flat, but don’t quote me on that.
- Cheaper: On average, yeah, buying a boat is a hell of a lot cheaper than buying a flat. Renting a boat (more on this later) is still cheaper than renting a flat for where you get to live.
- Beautiful – Have you walked down the canal through Victoria Park in the summer? Or any other time of year for that matter? You get me. Yes, the water is dirty, but your morning view from your deck is ducklings and swans and trees and water and not some random fucking brick building with a pub in Bethnal Green.
- Nomadic lifestyle – If you’re a continuous cruiser (more on this later), you move every couple of weeks and get to explore all different parts of London. And the canals go everywhere in England and I think throughout the rest of Britain, so you can moor all over the place.
- Great spots of London – Everywhere I lived on a boat was between Kensal Rise and Bow, then up through Hackney Wick to Clapton.
- Boater community – It’s kind of a big family. London Boaters is the Facebook group, it’s super useful for asking questions and getting answers. You tend to meet your neighbors a lot more than you do in a flat or house. They tend to be pretty chill people ON THE WHOLE. This does not go for everyone. I’ve made some incredible friends through boat life.
- Deck/roof – When the weather’s nice (or at least decent)? Oh Lordy, deck and roof. Put a yoga mat on your roof and cover yourself in coconut oil and sunbathe all day. Drink wine on your deck with your friends. Bring guitars and sing along under the stars.Especially if you’re cruising somewhere pretty. It’s amazing.
- Off the grid – Fuck the establishment, man! Get off the fucking grid!
- Heat situation – It’s cold in the winter. On most boats, you have to run your engine for hot water. It can be frustrating. More on this later.
- Toilet situation – If pumping out or emptying cassettes of your own waste is not something you can tolerate, maybe don’t. It really isn’t bad, at least I didn’t think so. But the Elsan dump spots along the canal are, on the whole, pretty grim. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend more than 5 minutes in them at a time.
- Power situation – If you don’t watch your battery, you can fuck your power quite easily. This happened to us, I know it happens to a lot of newbie boaters. You can’t use power as freely as you would on the grid.
- Internet – If you don’t have a phone you can tether to your laptop/wifi hotspot situation (I didn’t), no wifi for you. I used data on my phone and went to mates’ places/cafés a lot.
- It’s a responsibility – Heating your boat, moving your boat, running your engine to charge batteries/heat water, getting water, being aware of/conserving your battery power, etc.
Types of Boats
Narrowboat – Narrowboats are 7-feet wide (2.13 m). They come in varying lengths, most I’ve seen as actual homes are 20-72 feet (6.1-22 m). They do feel a bit narrow on the inside, but not uncomfortably so. They are much more comfortable to live in for one person or a couple because you can really only put one bedroom in them. If you’re living with other people and not sharing a bedroom, it’s less doable. They are, however, easier to moor (more on this later)
Wide-beam – From my understanding, pretty much a boat wider than a narrowboat? I’ve seen them go from about 9-13 feet wide (2.7-3.9 m). I haven’t seen a really short wide-beam, most I’ve seen are at least like 40 feet long (12 m). Again, don’t think you can go over 72 feet (22 m) because of getting through locks. They are harder to moor because you can’t double-moor as easily, because they’re wider. A lot of people on narrowboats dislike wide-beams. I don’t care either way.
Other – You see some funky stuff on the canal. Submarine-type situations, random cobbled-together boats, little plastic saily-type boats, dunno. But most of the boats are of the houseboat variety.
Houseboat/Canal boat/boat – From my understanding there’s not one set term for the thing that you live on. We usually just called it the boat. Yaz (my roommate) couldn’t stop calling it the van. When talking to people, I’d usually say I lived on a boat or a houseboat. Doesn’t matter what term you use that much.
Cruising – “driving” your boat. Some people call it sailing. Moving the boat up and down the canal/river.
Moor – To dock/park/whatever. To tie your boat up somewhere and chill there. A spot where you moor is called a mooring. I’ve never heard anyone say dock in terms of London boats. You’ll look like a noob.
Residential mooring – A legally-rented mooring spot. There are basins/marinas along the canal that have residential moorings in them. From what I gather, they’re expensive (like 1000 GBP/month in central London). I think there’s like places there to charge your electric and stuff, so they have their uses. Plus you don’t have to keep moving your boat. But I like moving, so w/e.
Continuous Cruiser – In the UK, a boater who doesn’t live at a residential mooring. You move between visitor moorings, most of which are 14 days (some are 7 days). If you don’t leave within 14 days (or 7 if it’s a 1-week spot), you will get fined. I think it’s 25 GBP/day. Unlike residential moorings, which you actually rent, visitor moorings are free.99! But they are a first-come first-serve thing. In more popular spots in central London, they can be quite full, but we never had a problem finding space and our boat was quite long.
CRT – The Canal and River Trust. The popo, ho. The fuzz. The branch of UK government that deals with rules and regulations on canals and rivers. They’re strict. They’re on their shit. Try not to piss them off.
Towpath – The path that runs along the canal.
Double-mooring (and triple-mooring): Mooring up next to someone. So someone’s boat is moored against the towpath, you can moor your boat next to their boat. Occasionally you see boats triple-moored, but it’s not as common and kind of frowned-upon from what I gather.
Locks – Those big gates that open and shut and fill up with water when the canal changes elevation.
TL;DR: Boating is cheaper than living in central London, but there are costs to be aware of.
Buying – Living-sized boats (let’s say a narrowboat of at least 20ft length to a wide-beam of 50ft length) tend to run from like 10,000 quid to 85,000 or so. Dunno. I’ve never bought a boat. Your average narrowboat is probably gonna run you about 25,000 GBP. I’ve heard it’s cheaper to buy outside London and cruise down the canal/river network into London.
Renting – Depending on who’s renting the boat, how big it is, how new it is, etc., you can pay all different amounts to rent a boat. I’ve heard of them going from 200/mo to 1000/mo. Dunno. If you’re looking to rent a boat, there’s the occasional few listings on Gumtree (that’s how we found ours). If you’ve got friends with boats, talk to them. Beware: The boat rental situation is a bit sketchy. More on this later.
Utilities – Wood and coal are your biggest investment in the winter. You don’t need them in the summer unless you really feel like lighting a fire while it’s hot out. Trust me, you’ll be warm enough. Diesel cost us about 75 quid to fill up our whole tank (lasts a few months). Water is free. Power comes from solar panels, usually, and running your engine, so aside from what you pay for diesel, also free (unless you destroy your battery and have to replace it.)
Residential moorings – As mentioned above, they’re gnarly expensive. If you’re paying for a residential mooring in, say, King’s Cross, you might as well just pay for a flat.
TL;DR: Follow CRT rules. Learn more about licensing than I know about it. Renting boats is kind of on the DL, but it does exist.
I definitely don’t know a lot about this one.
Licensing – Every boat has a license that the owner pays. I don’t know a lot about boat licensing. You do not need any special license to cruise/drive/sail a boat on the canal. If you buy your boat and live on it, you do have to pay a licensing fee, the licensing allows the CRT to know whose boat that is and who to fine/contact in case of any rule breaking.
Renting – From what I gather, renting a boat is kind of sketchy if you’re a continuous cruiser. Some boaters don’t like people who are renting. I don’t think you’re legally supposed to rent a boat, but it definitely happens. We did it. I don’t know what the CRT thinks is going down with people who own more than one boat in London, but I maybe wouldn’t go posting in London Boaters or asking the CRT about renting a boat. If you’re renting, sign a contract and obey it.
— Life on your boat —
TL;DR: Every boat is different. You do need to be more aware of what you consume in terms of power and water. Stock up on wood and coal for the winter, it will be cold.
TL;DR: You don’t have as power as you would in a flat, so use it wisely.
I don’t know anything about how power works. Just general advice.
Battery – Your boat has a battery. It gives you power. Keep it charged. Don’t let it drop below 12 (you’ll know what I mean if you get a boat).
Generators – We didn’t have one. I know nothing about them.
Solar panels – Our boat had solar panels which charged our batteries. They’re way more efficient in the summer because, duh, more light. Try not to moor under dense foliage, keep your solar panels clear of fallen leaves and other obstructions to their ability to get light.
Inverter – The thing that changes your power from 12 Volt to 240 Volt. It can drain your battery. Don’t leave it on if you’re not using it.
Engine – Running your engine charges your battery or something. We often forgot to do it.
TL;DR: Free water along the canal, whee! Stock it up. Also if you have a gym membership or shower at your office, shower there when you can.
Hot water – You run your engine to get hot water. More details in the Heating section below.
Filling up – There’s taps along the canal. They’re free to use. Fill up your tank when you pass one.
Water usage – Don’t just leave your water running. Don’t leave the tap going when you’re brushing your teeth, don’t waste water. You’ll run out, it’ll suck.
TL;DR: Off-grid toilets come in a few shapes and sizes, but yes, you will deal with your own waste in a way you don’t in a flat with normal plumbing. My advice: Ask Gerard Pitt about toilets, he has many strong opinions on the subject. Don’t steal his dream toilet idea.
Types of toilets:
Cassette toilets – This is what we had. Basically, a camping toilet. Plastic sitting bit, plastic cassette thing underneath that your poo and urine dump into. In the top bit, there’s a tank with water and poo-dissolving solvent. We were told by our landlord to use bleach as poo-dissolving solvent. We have since been told by other boaters that you do not use bleach and you need to get like that blue (green?) portable loo toilet shit. You empty them at the Elsan dump spots. YOU DO NOT DUMP THEM IN THE CANAL. I recommend having more than one cassette so you can change them out in case you fill up your toilet before getting to an Elsan point.
Pump-out toilets – Bigger tank, you pump it out, no idea how it works.
Composting toilets – They exist. Don’t know anything about them.
Emptying your toilet:
Elsan dump spots – Got a cassette toilet? You get to experience the wonderful world of Elsan dump spots. They’re along the canal in various locations. You remove the top seat part of your toilet, you carry the very heavy (and SEALED) cassette full of waste to the dump spot, you dump it, you flush the dump spot thing, you rinse out your cassette, and you use it again.
Pump-out spots – There are fewer along the canal, but your pump-out toilet tank is larger. Don’t know anything about them, except they involve a big thick hose.
When dumping your cassette, wear rubber gloves.
When moving your cassette from the bathroom to the deck/Elsan point, make absolutely certain it is sealed.
If you’re sensitive to smells, hold your breath at the Elsain dump spots and breathe through your mouth, especially the one in Little Venice, as it is indoors and smells exactly like you’d expect it to.
Don’t overfill your cassette. It’s a plastic box full of poo and urine. If you overfill it, there’s nowhere for it to go but all over your bathroom.
Dumping toilets is really not that grim. Yes, Elsan points smell and if you fuck up, you can get in a shitty situation. But if you’re on top of it and careful, it’s fine.
TL;DR: Canal boats have diesel engines. Johnny the Diesel Guy will deliver you diesel.
Filling up our whole tank cost about 75 quid and lasts several months. We never had to replace our gas the whole time we lived there, but your stove is probably a gas one (unless you’ve got a wood-burning stove you can cook on top of).
- Food storage
TL;DR: If you have a fridge, only use it in the summer.
We didn’t have a fridge when we moved in. Our dear friend Jay bought us a little low-energy one, but even that drains the battery in the winter. In the winter, it’s cold enough that you can often leave food in an ice-box type situation, some kind of sealable storage on your deck/roof.
Don’t leave unsealed food containers or rubbish bins out unless you really want to attract rodents/foxes/etc.
TL;DR: For wifi, use a mobile hotspot. Don’t bother with a TV unless it’s really essential, but no, you won’t have cable. Also, cafés and friends’ places with wifi and TVs are cool.
Charging things: You will have wall sockets, you have to switch your power to 240 V to use them, it’ll use your battery a lot. Charging Mac laptops uses more battery power than you want it to.
Wifi: No, you can’t get wifi the normal way. Yes, I asked every possible option at Carphone Warehouse. However, mobile hotspot (tethering your phone) is a thing. I had a pay-as-you-go O2 phone, so I couldn’t do that. I just got a big bundle with loads of data and used my phone for internet and used wifi in cafés/friend’s houses. On rare occasions you’ll pick up wifi networks along the canal, ie. BTInternet ones or whatever. They work, if you can get a log-in, but they’re not super strong from my experience.
TVs: No, I’m pretty sure you can’t get cable either. We had a little TV that played DVDs, it was actually quite nice. Loads of charity shops have cheap DVDs, think sitting by the fire, drinking tea and watching old films, it’s old school. TVs don’t run on 12 V battery, you have to use your invertor to switch to 240 V, it will eat up your battery but the TV wasn’t our problem.
Other: Our boat had in-the-wall USB chargers and a built in speaker system. That was cool. Don’t know any other boats with that, though.
TL;DR: Little bin bags you can toss in the bins along the towpath. Big ones, there are dumpsters at various spots along the canal.
TL;DR: It will be cold in the winter. Stock up on fire-making supplies. Get a hot water bottle and a pair of fuzzy slippers. Fire = Boat TV.
For far too much detail on heating, read below:
I’d say, this was far and away the biggest issue for us. For the most part, you do not have central heating on a boat. Maybe there’s some magical new modern boats that have some kind of heating system involving back boilers (don’t ask, I don’t know what they are either). No idea. But for the most part, you light a fire to heat your boat. You light it in a wood-burning stove situation, it’s really cozy and nice, but you do need to stay on top of it.
Boats are insulated to varying degrees. In the summer, they can get really warm on the inside and incredibly hot on the outside (think metal painted dark blue in the sun in August. Yeah. Hot). In the winter, they can get mighty cold.
Learn to build a fire, it’s a useful skill to have for survival in general. If you can’t be asked, invest in firelighters and kindling.
Wood and coal – Stock up. There’s wood and coal guys who sell in bulk and come up and down the canal. Ask fellow boaters or the London Boaters Facebook group, they’ll hook you up with the people to talk to. If you’re moored near a park/wooded area, you can pick up logs and stuff. Sawing and chopping is work, but it’s fun. Stay the fuck on top of your wood and coal. If you run out and it’s midnight and freezing and all the shops nearby that sell wood/coal are shut? Yeah. It sucks. Also, coal takes much longer to light but burns for much longer. I’d light a wood fire, throw coal on it, let the coal heat up, keep it stoked with wood, and let the coal burn overnight. Your boat will be cold on winter mornings pretty much no matter what.
Kindling and firelighters – They’re your friends. Kindling can be picked up from parks and natural areas or bought at shops (some off-licenses, a lot of Poundlands). Newspaper is good for starting fires. Firelighters (little bricks that light instantly and burn long enough to set a fire) are your friends. Instant start logs are cool too, usually last an hour or so, but I don’t think they’re super good for you to breathe, maybe.
Where to get things – 1) Wood and coal guys. We stupidly never used them, probably should have. They work on the canals and do deliveries. Cheaper and you can buy in bulk. Ask London Boaters/boater friends for their info. 2) Nature. Get a saw, get an ax, don’t go chopping down trees, but collect fallen branches and logs and chop them up. It’s a bit of effort, but it’s free. Also dumpsters are a great spot to find free wood. 3) Poundland – for smaller bags of coal, instant start logs, firelighters, kindling. Different Poundlands have different stuff. The one in Hoxton does not have everything you want it to. 4) Big grocery stores – The big Sainsbury’s in Kensal Rise (which is right on the canal and you can moor next to it for a couple hours) and the big one in Angel all have loads of fire-making supplies. They are more expensive. 5) Off-licenses. Again, each one has different stuff, generally more expensive than you want it to be. Charcoal is not the same as coal.
When to light your fire – Depending on the size of your fire, size of your stove, and size/layout of your boat, it’ll take a bit for things to warm up after you set your fire. Generally, it’ll take at least a half hour or so. If you keep the fire stoked and going for a while, your boat can get properly hot and toasty. I know at least some boaters will get home from work, set a fire, leave for the evening and come back to a warm boat. Leaving an unattended fire in your boat is not super dangerous if you’ve got a stove that locks, but it freaks me out and I only ever did it for like 10 minutes at a time. Maybe I’m just paranoid. Don’t burn down your boat or other people’s boats.
The damp thing – Boats get damp, especially in the winter. Not like dripping wet on the inside, but the air will be kind of moist a lot of the time. It’s shitty in winter.
Hot water – For most (all?) boats, you run your engine to get hot water. For doing dishes, showering, etc., you generally run your engine for about half an hour before the water gets hot. Depending on the boat, it will stay hotter for various lengths of time after you turn off the engine. Remember – You can’t run your engine after 20:00 unless you’re cruising.
Other advice – thick socks, dressing gowns, fuzzy slippers are your friends. Get a good duvet. And A HOT WATER BOTTLE.
Life on the canal:
1. CRT Rules
Mooring – Most visitor moorings are 2 weeks. Some are 1 week. You’ll see signs on the towpath letting you know each one. You cannot moor everywhere – there are sets of moorings at different points along the canal. You can double moor, it’s fine. Triple mooring is kind of sketchy territory.
Power and noise – Engines can only be run between 8AM and 8PM unless you’re cruising your boat. Generally, don’t cruise late at night, it’s kinda rude. Think the same goes for generators, but we didn’t have one.
Cruising patterns – You’ll hear this term a lot. From what I gather, the CRT is a bit unclear about what a legal cruising pattern is and there are as many understandings of how cruising patterns work as there are boaters. What I do know:
- You have to cruise 20 miles in a year in a regular cruising pattern.
- A regular cruising pattern means basically, a regular pattern to your cruising. Like, you can’t spend 2 weeks at each mooring between Victoria Park and Little Venice, go out to Uxbridge for 2 days, and call that 20 miles. It has to be a fairly normal pattern, like 1-2 weeks in most spots for a full 20-mile stretch.
- You can’t overstay in visitor moorings (you will get fined).
- Some people say you have to keep going for 20-miles in one direction. I’m not totally sure how this works.
- When you reach the end of your navigation (ie. the 20 miles covered), it’s unclear whether you can turn around and go back right away to the spot you were just in. Some boaters say yes, other say no.
- There’s this whole 3-month rule I’m unclear on. Our landlord said you absolutely cannot moor in a spot you’ve moored in within the last 3 months. You can stop there for a couple hours or a night, but not for a week or two.
For more information, see the CRT website (in Resources, below).
You can sink your boat in a lock. Don’t do it. Keep ahead of the fucking cill marker. Be wary, be careful, take them slow, go through them with someone who’s done them before for your first several times. I’ve found them much easier to do with more than one person. If there’s traffic, wait your turn, don’t be a dick, etc.
Look at the signs and don’t overstay.
Rings and pins – Most mooring spots in central London are on rings. See a stretch of canal with no rings and no boats around? You probs can’t moor there. You tie your mooring rope to them at the front and back. I could go into details about rope but it’s not that helpful. The main rope in the center of your boat is called the midline or center line. If you’re mooring along grass, ie. Hackney Wick, Kensal Rise, etc., you’ll hammer in mooring pins and tie your boat off to those.
Double mooring – If you don’t need to do it, don’t do it, unless it’s like your BFF next door. In most of central London, you’ll need to do it. Further out, not so much. We were told, as a general rule, don’t double moor onto someone moored on pins. Most of the places that need pins are further out and won’t be as crowded anyway.
It’s fun and lovely, unless it’s freezing and pissing down rain. It’s really not hard to pick up. You move the tiller back and forth, the boat moves back and forth, don’t go too fast, take it slow and easy around turns, watch out for traffic, don’t be a dick. If you’re leaving a big wake, you’re going too fast.
Also – On the canals, you drive on the right hand side. It’s not like car driving in the UK. If you’re passing a boat, pass on the right.
Houseboats are slow. You’re pretty much cruising at a walking pace. This means when moving between moorings, give yourself AT LEAST as much time to cruise as it would take to walk it. Tack on extra time for mooring and if you’re going through any locks. If you’re cruising through Camden, loads of extra time. There are 3 back-to-back locks in Camden.
You don’t need a special license.
Don’t cruise drunk/fucked up, obviously.
5. Boater Community
Boaters are (in general) awesome! Some of my favorite people I’ve met in London have been through boating. This is NOT a hard and fast rule, but I would say, in general, shitty people don’t live on boats. The canals are super neighborly and you get to know your neighbors a lot, if for no other reason than that you literally walk over their house sometimes to get to the towpath.
6. London Canal network
Grand Union Canal – Starts in London, runs up to Birmingham and all over Britain. When looking on the CRT website for canal info, this is the name of the canal you’re on in most of London. Regent’s Canal is a section of it.
Regent’s Canal – The canal bit in most of central London. Runs from Little Venice to Limehouse through Paddington, Regent’s Park, Camden, King’s Cross, Angel, Haggerston, Broadway Market, Bethnal Green, Mile End down to Limehouse and into the Thames.
Hertford Union – So the canal splits in Victoria Park. Regent’s Canal runs down through Mile End towards Limehouse, Hertford Union is this little stretch up the Bow side of Victoria Park. Feeds into the River Lea around Hackney Wick.
River Lea (Lee?) – River that runs from somewhere north down through Tottenham, Clapton, Hackney Marshes, Hackney Wick into Olympic Park, Bow and I think Limehouse from there. I’ve seen it spelled River Lee and River Lea, fuck knows. The Lee Navigation according to Wikipedia is like the canal bit in East London and then the River Lea is like the full river.
Others? Dunno. That’s all I really dealt with.
7. Canal Overcrowding/Issues
The London canals were not built to house as many people as are currently living on the canals. Pretty sure they weren’t originally built to house anybody. Visitor moorings, especially in central London, are getting more crowded. The CRT has tightened rules on mooring and cruising (pretty sure you used to just be able to cruise around between visitor moorings as you saw fit, now there’s loads of regulations on how far you have to go, how much distance you have to cover, etc.). Those rules are kind of unclear, but stated as best as I can gather above.
Other General Life Shit
If you’re a continuous cruiser, you don’t have an address. You can get mail sent to loads of places. Friends, parents, post boxes, Amazon has some kind of pick-up mail holding spot I hear? Dunno.
Launderettes are your friend. The one in King’s Cross is mega cheap for a full service wash.
It’s been said that people who live in flats along the canal don’t like boaters. I’ve never had a problem with anyone, but there are well-known complainers, I think in Angel. Kids (and people in general) are occasionally dicks, we had some kids come and bang on our boat once at like 8 am and I had to go out and yell at them. Also, if you’re picking up guys at a bar and fail to mention until you’re in the Uber to your boat that you actually live on a boat and that’s not a joke, and then it’s 4 am, you’re moored by the trees in Hackney Wick and you don’t have any wood so you have to run into the trees, grab a bunch of logs, and start sawing, it may freak them out.
Most spots along the canal are fairly close to a tube or overground stop, but what line you’re close to will change as you move. I’d get a bike, the canals are great places to cycle.
Honestly, I never once had a problem with safety, not even at night. This is not everyone’s experience, I’m sure, but I didn’t find the canal to be any more dangerous than anywhere else in London. There are plenty of people who live alone on boats, including women, and haven’t had a problem.
6. Fancy a Swim?
Don’t swim in the canal. The water is disgusting. Keep cork on your keys so they float if they fall in. Invariably, you or something you own will fall in, I almost guarantee it. Invest in a net or boat hook to fish stuff out in case it’s valuable/essential.
General Do’s and Don’ts:
- Don’t be a dick
- Don’t speed on the canal, especially going around bends (ie. Primrose Hill) or in areas with other boats moored. It’s a dick move.
- Don’t move your boat late at night. It’s loud, it makes a current that moves other boats around, it’s a dick move. Sometimes it’s unavoidable.
- Don’t triple moor, especially in winter. It’s a safety thing I think. People lighting fires, if a boat catches fire, harder to evacuate.
- Don’t moor obnoxiously in general
- This one is up in the air – I would say, don’t move other people’s boats without their permission. Let’s say there’s like 40 feet of mooring space but it’s in 20-foot chunks with a boat in the middle. Ask the person in that boat if you can move it. If they’re not in, move it and leave a note.
- Do follow CRT rules, whatever the fuck they are
- Talk to your neighbors!
- Join London Boaters on Facebook.
London Boaters Facebook Group
CRT London Waterways Page
Canal Route Planner
This article on London boat life which is interesting, useful, and that blue boat sketchily moored in the 2nd photo was ours (that was before we moved in though. We’d never moor like that.)
In conclusion, hope you enjoyed that unnecessary barrage of information.
Happy boating, kiddos.
PS. If you see a long blue narrowboat called Enigma, make sure she’s being taken good care of.